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Experts say U.S. has record decline in life expectancy

Life expectancy in U.S. has plunged in recent years
Life expectancy in U.S. has plunged in recent years 01:51

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The U.S. is experiencing a record decline in how long people live. Life expectancy was reported to be 76.1 years in 2021, according to the CDC.

The decline of 2.7 years was the largest since WWI.

"Life expectancy has fallen down to where it was in the Clinton administration, erasing 25 years of progress," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said.

A new report from the Bloomberg American Health Initiative identifies six major reasons. COVID-19 is the leading cause followed by overdoses, gun-related homicide and suicide, teen suicide, motor vehicle fatalities and heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

"The obvious reason is COVID, which has come onto the scene, a brand new infectious disease and killed more than a million Americans. But it's not just COVID it's also overdoses which are now at over 100,000 deaths a year. Gun-related suicide and homicide, which killed over 45,000 people a year," Sharfstein said.

The report also identifies heat and other weather-related events as a looming threat to life expectancy over the next decade and beyond. Researchers say life expectancy can be improved by making sure COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are up to date and by making treatment for opioid addiction more accessible.

"Part of what we can do to improve the future of our country is to improve the health of the people who live here. And so the idea is that by following the evidence, it is possible not to be stuck here. This is not inevitable. This is something that is totally within our power to reverse," Sharfstein said.

Experts say the time to become healthier as a nation is now, so we can help save more lives. Other recommendations to improve life expectancy include policies to remove guns from someone who is a threat to themselves or others.

The report also suggests school programs to prevent teen suicide.

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